Marvel Comics announced two new David Liss-written projects this past weekend at the C2E2 convention in Chicago, both starting this June: the five-issue miniseries Mystery Men and "Storm Hunter," an upcoming two-issue arc in Black Panther: The Man Without Fear guest starring Kraven the Hunter and Storm.Mystery Men tells the story of the first New York City-based costumed crimefighters in the Marvel Universe, and "Storm Hunter" is the first meeting between husband (Black Panther) and wife (Storm) since T'Challa relocated to Hell's Kitchen in Black Panther: The Man Without Fear #513. Newsarama talked to Liss about these comics here and here, respectively, and also consulted Marvel editor Bill Rosemann for more background on the origins of Mystery Men, the selection of the creative team, and how it could be possible that two characters as seemingly perfectly matched as Black Panther and Kraven the Hunter have never fought before now. Newsarama: Bill, what got the ball rolling with Mystery Men? Was it a pitch from David, or maybe something that had been kicking around for a while that he came on board and then fleshed out?
Bill Rosemann: Over a year ago, at one of our editorial summits, we were discussing what kinds of characters and genres we currently weren’t exploring. And while we’ve seen the Marvel U from the ‘40s through today, I wondered about what our Manhattan of the ‘30s would be like. As a huge fan of the pulp heroes, I wondered what it would be like if we put the Marvel spin on these characters… that is to say, give them the challenges and angst and feet of clay that our modern heroes such as Spider-Man and Daredevil and The Thing are known for. So I reached out to novelist David Liss (who actually wrote this before his current run on Black Panther: The Man Without Fear) and asked him if he was interested in developing a cast of all-new pulp heroes. Before the Invaders, before The Twelve, who were running across the rooftops of New York City during that wild decade?
Not only was David interested, but his character bios and story pitch blew us away! Then it was time to reach out to Patrick Zircher, whose subsequent character designs had everyone drooling. David and Patrick have created layered, sympathetic, and even down right scary heroes who are fully woven into the rich continuity of Marvel.
Nrama: This is definitely a different type of project for Patrick Zircher. What made him the right choice?
Rosemann: Patrick has drawn more traditional, modern heroes over his career, but it was actually his covers for the similarly-set Spider-Man: Noir that brought him to mind for this story. His amazing ability to design the clothes, architecture and vehicles of that era is second to none. There’s a dark tone to his work, but also they hyper-realism of the super hero genre. Plus, his dedication, passion and thoughtful approach to each and every page – including lettering placements to colors – is an inspiration. He’s got some incredible work on the way after this mini, but to me, Patrick was born to draw Mystery Men.
Nrama: This project is adding to the history of the Marvel Universe by filling in the gaps of an era that we hadn't seen before — why were these pulp characters important to establish?
Rosemann: We’ve seen many heroes be inspired by other costumed crime fighters to pull on a disguise…but what caused these first men and women to think, “I know! I’ll put on a mask and take the law into my own hands! I’ll become a vigilante and battle injustice!”? Also, how amazing and dramatic is the story of heroes who don’t have superhuman powers? I mean, they’re leaping from fire escapes and crashing through windows armed with little more than their guts, fists and willpower. Why did these trailblazers choose this path? What demons drove them and what addictions kept them coming back for more?
Nrama: I think you've edited all of David's Marvel projects thus far, and I know you're a big fan of his novels. With Mystery Men starting in June, are you guys already talking about what might come next?
Rosemann: If enough readers and retailers respond positively to Mystery Men, we’d get a sequel rolling in a heartbeat. Meanwhile, the news on his very cool arc in Black Panther #519 and #520 [broke earlier this week]… and just wait until you see the character on the cover to issue #521! This is going to be a huge year for David, and you’ll see why in Mystery Men!
Nrama: Speaking of the "Storm Hunter" arc in Black Panther, it definitely does seem surprising that there's never been a Kraven vs. Black Panther fight before, even if the former character had been dead for more than 20 years (in real-world time, at least). To what would you attribute them being kept apart all this time?
Rosemann: Pure hatred! It’s funny, given that one is the world’s greatest hunter, and known for his animal-slaying adventures in Africa, and the other is the world’s most dangerous man, known for his animal-based identity and for leading an African nation, you’d think the two would have collided many times by now. It’s true that T’Challa has fought Kraven’s son, but he’s never gone one-on-one with the original Kraven himself. Considering their personalities, motivations and over-all bad-assery, this should be one brutal battle. And after reading the first script…I can tell you it is!
Nrama: Francesco Francavilla has definitely set a visual tone for the series in the first issues — what can you tell us about Jefte Palo's art in "Storm Hunter"?
Rosemann: We love, love, love Francesco’s unbelievably beautiful art. But, with issues #519 and #520 both shipping in June – that’s right, you’re getting the entire throw down in one month – we thought it would be best to bring in a guest-artist. That way, Francesco could jump right on issue #521, which is another key story arc about which you’ll be hearing very soon. And as luck would have it, we were blessed with the availability of Jefte Palo, who drew Black Panther’s acclaimed Secret Invasion tie-in, as well as the excellent Taskmaster mini…not to mention Black Panther #516, on sale March 9th! Jefte did such an amazing job on #516 that we immediately asked if he was interested in coming back for this historic two-parter…and he said yes! Jefte draws a heroic Panther, crafty Kraven and a stunning Storm!